Gaelic was the language of my ancestors and in fact my great-grandfather taught it to adults in evening classes but it was never passed down to me. It was not easy to find a course and there was only one tutor on Italki whose hours did not fit in with mine. I eventually decided to go for the distance learning course through Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, a college on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. I had all the self-study materials and then a one hour group call with the tutor once per week. I also registered for a 90 day language challenge to study Gaelic.

This was my first video at the start of the challenge:

After a few weeks of this style of learning, I desperately needed more speaking practice. However, I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to find Gaelic speakers to speak with on Skype. I posted messages on lots of sites but got no responses apart from other learners who were trying to find speaking partners too!

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The Gaelic speaking Isle of Harris, Scotland

I therefore went through almost the whole challenge with no speaking! In the final week, I got a kind offer from Thomas in the USA and he agreed to make my 90 day video with me. He is a fluent Gaelic speaker who studied in Scotland. I also went to the Isle of Lewis and Isle of Harris for a weekend where I was able to go to Ravenspoint and speak Gaelic there. They run summer courses so they were very enthusiastic about chatting to me in Gaelic. I also visited a church in Gravir, Lewis to attend a Gaelic Psalms service. It’s a very traditional and unique way of singing and attracts many visitors. The locals made me feel very welcome and they all spoke to me in Gaelic.

Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis. Photo by Maureen Millward.
Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis. Photo taken by me.

My Day 90 video at the end of the challenge was difficult for me, as I had to speak for 15 minutes in Gaelic which I had not managed the whole way through the 90 days as I hadn’t actually practised speaking with anyone (not even a rehearsal!), but the main thing is I achieved it! Looking back at my video now, I can hear mistakes especially when using tha/a bheil expressions but I don’t do that anymore and I should be pleased I finished it after all.  A few weeks after the challenge ended, I received my Gaelic test results and I scored 83% for speaking and 90% for writing!

My final video also includes clips of my trip to the Isle of Lewis and Isle of Harris including the Gaelic Psalms church singing at the end.

  

All photos on this post were taken by me. Please be courteous and ask before you use them on your own site.

HOW TO LEARN SCOTTISH GAELIC

If you would like to learn Gaelic, my favourite resource is Italki where I find my tutors for my Skype lessons. You can register on this link here and after taking your first paid lesson, you will receive $10 of credits to use towards another lesson.

I completed a distance learning course over two semesters with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

Complete Gaelic by Teach Yourself includes audio and takes you from beginner to intermediate level. I always find these courses excellent.

Learn Gaelic Online Lessons – This course includes 60 lessons for beginners. The lessons are interactive and include a quiz at the end. There’s also a “Watch Gaelic” section which consists of various short videos in Gaelic with a transcript available in both English and Gaelic.

Speaking Our Language DVDs – A four part DVD series published by the BBC starting with beginners level Gaelic lessons.

BBC Bitesize Gaelic  – Aimed at school pupils but also very useful for adult learners. It contains grammar, listening and reading exercises.

Akerbeltz Gaelic Pronunciation Guide  – An introduction to sounds in Gaelic, some of which do not exist in English. There are 13 links at the bottom of the homepage for each section.

Learn Gaelic Dictionary  – This is the best online dictionary available as it includes audio for each word. Translations are available for full phrases as well as individual words. If you prefer to have a physical dictionary then I recommend the Teach Yourself Essential Gaelic Dictionary

Taic Gaelic Grammar  – The first 10 grammar lessons are free.

BBC Beag Air Bheag  – An online Gaelic course aimed at beginner level with 35 units to complete. There is a useful pronunciation section with audio for beginners.

Danamag  – An online Gaelic magazine containing articles on various themes aimed at intermediate or advanced level learners.

BBC Alba  – A television channel available throughout the UK where all programmes are in Gaelic with English subtitles. The variety of programmes is excellent, they include music, culture, history, children’s, news and sport. The site also provides access to listen to Gaelic Radio ‘Radio nan Gàidheal’. The BBC iPlayer feature to watch television programmes and listen to the radio is only available to people in the UK.

BBC News in Gaelic  – A BBC News website with various news articles in Gaelic, mostly relating to Scottish news.

USEFUL TRAVEL LINKS 

I often book my flights independently using Skyscanner. It also brings up results of the budget airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet.

I normally look for hotels or apartments using Booking.com as many of them do not require a prepayment and are flexible with regards to amendments and cancellations up until a few days before travel. By using my link, you will receive 10% refund from your accommodation costs.

Another site I regularly use for hotels is Hotels.com. They also have many hotels offering flexible options. I once had to cancel a hotel at a non-refundable rate but they helped me obtain a refund as I needed urgent surgery and the hotel still had a week to rebook another customer. I have therefore been happy with their service.

For insurance, I have been using Flexicover to buy annual policies for over 10 years. In that time, I have had to claim twice for last minute illnesses resulting in cancellations and the service has been efficient. You can also arrange to pay extra and cover pre-existing conditions.